The Justice Department on Tuesday lodged criminal charges against seven former executives of Siemens AG, who engaged in a decade-long scheme to bribe top Argentine officials to win a billion-dollar government contract. The criminal cases stem from a $1.6 billion disgorgement settlement in 2008, which was the largest ever brought under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Assistant attorney general Lanny A. Breuer at a late morning press briefing said the criminal case was brought in the U.S. as well as Munich because the seven executives, including one member of the Siemens board of directors, used U.S. banks to launder the bribes. The company is also publicly traded here and employs 60,000 Americans.
Breuer, who’s been asked to resign by Capitol Hlll Republicans for mishandling the flawed arms trafficking case called “Fast and Furious,” suggested the Department of Justice’s stepped up enforcement of FCPA is part of a worldwide movement against government corruption, which he said would help U.S. businesses abroad. “People want to see governments where they can succeed based on their own efforts, not based on corruption,” he said. “We want U.S. business to compete on a level playing field.”
Some conservatives claim the onerous terms of the FCPA make it difficult for U.S. businesses to compete abroad. Notably, most of the cases brought in recent years have involved foreign-based firms that either have substantial operations in the U.S. or are publicly traded here.
The former Siemens executives face up to 20 years for money laundering and five years for bribery. The highest-ranking official charged in the case was Uriel Sharef, who served on Siemens’ board from 2000 to 2007. He allegedly held meetings in the U.S. with intermediaries, who then paid $27 million in bribes to top-ranked government employees in Argentina to win a contract for producing national identity cards.
The criminal case comes on the heels of stepped-up enforcement of the FCPA under the Obama administration. Here are a list of the top ten recent settlements:
|Date||Company (HQ country)||DOJ Settlement Amount||Charge|
|12/15/2008||Siemens (Germany)||$1.6 billion||Bribed Argentine government officials to win government i.d. contract|
|2/11/2009||KBR/Halliburton (U.S.)||$579 million||Led four-company global consortium that bribed Nigerian officials to win construction contracts|
|2/5/2010||BAE Systems (U.S.)||$448 million||Paid $2 billion in bribes to Saudi Arabian ambassador Bandar bin Sultan in a multi-billion-dollar arms deal|
|7/7/2010||Snamprogetti (Netherlands)||$240 million||Bribed Nigerian officials to win construction contracts|
|6/28/2010||Technip S.A. (France)||$240 million||Bribed Nigerian officials to win construction contracts|
|4/6/2011||JGC Corp. (Japan)||$219 million||Bribed Nigerian officials to win construction contracts|
|4/1/2010||Daimler AG (Germany)||$195 million||Made illegal payments to foreign officials worth tens of millions of dollars in at least 22 countries|
|3/10/2011||Alcatel-Lucent (France)||$137 million||Bribed officials to win telecommunications contracts in Costa Rica, Honduras, Taiwan, Malaysia and other countries|
|11/4/2010||Panalpina World Transport (Switzerland)||$76 million||Oil transport company and U.S. affiliate paid thousands of bribes totaling at least $27 million to foreign officials in at least seven countries, including Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Russia and Turkmenistan|
|4/8/2011||Johnson & Johnson (U.S.)||$70 million||Bribed government-paid doctors and health officials to promote sales of medical devices in Greece, Poland and Romania|